If the closest you have been to Crater Lake is when you pulled your rental car up close to a bumper and saw the commemorative Oregon license plate, it’s time you shifted into high gear and took a road trip.
Head to Roseburg, grab something to eat, fuel up and head east out beautiful Highway 138 along the incredible North Umpqua Scenic Byway. Do yourself a favor and talk someone else into driving, because the trip up to Crater Lake National Park rivals your ultimate destination in its ability to inspire your awe.
You’ll head out through the lush rolling hills that lead east from Roseburg for 15 minutes until you reach Glide. You’ll want to stop here for a few minutes to take in a site you can’t see anywhere else in Oregon, and few other places anywhere for that matter.
Pull off at the Colliding Rivers Viewpoint where you can witness the North Umpqua and the Little River converging at an almost head-on angle. It’s an impressive, naturally chaotic sight and beautifully sets the stage for what lies ahead – a drive through paradise.
Most of your route runs alongside the North Umpqua, the legendary and pristine river that is on the bucket list of every serious fly angler (LINK to fishing).
The scenic byway is also renowned for its waterfalls (LINK), hiking and biking trails, campgrounds and more. But remember your goal on this day is 70 miles ahead and you’re going to need lots of time at your destination. So by all means feel free to stop and gawk along the way, but keep your eye on the prize.
And what a prize Crater Lake is. With a depth of 1,943 feet, this is America’s deepest lake and the ninth deepest in the world, for those keeping score. For all we know, this is also where the color blue comes from. At the very least, when you see this blue you will never again see the color the same way.
Scientists say the intensity of Crater Lake’s color is a product of its depth and purity. It is reputed to be the cleanest large body of water in the world.
The lake was formed nearly 8,000 years ago with the eruption of the formerly 12,000-foot volcano in which it lies. Subsequent eruptions formed Wizard Island, near the edge of the lake.
Boats ferry passengers out to the island four times a day for a three-hour stay. So if exploring a volcano within a volcano intrigues you, it’s probably best to limit your stops on the way up (there’s always the way back to enjoy those).
If you don’t have the time to devote to the ferry trip, there are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied. Here are just five of them:
Drive the Rim: There’s no better way to see Crater Lake than to take the 33-mile trek around Rim Drive. There are multiple scenic viewpoints along the way. You’ll want to allow two to three hours for the trip.
Tour the Lodge: You won’t be able to stay overnight in Crater Lake Lodge unless you booked your stay well in advance (we’re talking months or years), but you can sure visit the impressive facility, which was built in 1915 and renovated in the 90s.
Take a Hike: There’s all sorts of terrain to explore on foot, from forests and peaks to meadows. You can even walk down to the lake and dip your toe in the water.
Have a Picnic: Gather your groceries in Roseburg then spread out a blanket or grab a table at one of the many viewpoints or picnic areas.
Talk to a Ranger: No one knows Crater Lake like its park rangers and they lead a variety of educational activities.
There’s much more to experience at Crater Lake National Park and you’ll find many online resources where you can learn more about Oregon’s most cherished natural treasure.
You can start at the official National Park Service website.
Better yet, just start driving.